In an effort to be intentional about celebrating Advent and Christmas more fully, as outlined by Taylor Burton-Edwards, Director of Worship Resources, Discipleship Ministries (United Methodist Church), in the United Methodist Worship blog post Three Ways to Celebrate Advent and Christmas Season Fully in 2015/16 , my congregation will begin to observe Advent Sunday, November 15. The “new” fourth Sunday of Advent will be December 6. We are following the lectionary for these Sundays, as they already exist. Using the Gospel Lessons, Gayle (the Chairperson of our Worship Committee) selected key phrases from different translations of the Bible and paired the phrases with two words that will be used for silent meditation at the beginning of worship. Using these phrases and two-word meditations as inspiration, I am writing Advent Wreath Lighting Liturgies for our Advent observance. If you would like to use them in worship, please feel free; however, I do ask that you acknowledge Gayle Youmans and Amy Persons Parkes as the authors of the material.
November 15, 2015 (Advent 1)
Mark 13: 1-8, key verse 8b (NIV): “These are the beginnings of birth pains.”
Two-word meditation: Wait Actively
Advent Wreath Lighting Liturgy (First Sunday)
As any expectant parents know, preparation for the life to come begins long before a baby is born or an adopted child is brought home. The cries of a newborn are the harvest of seeds sewn from our inscrutable longing for life to continue after we die.
As she enters the front hall of her new home, the first smack of light-up superhero shoes on the laminate floor is not the beginning of new life for an adopting family. Those brave, expectant steps were preceded by hours of interviews, reams of paperwork, and thousands of prayers to the Almighty for a way to open up, for a social worker to approve, and for relatives to accept.
So, too, on this first Sunday of Advent, we wait actively for Christ to come again to make all that is wrong, right. We wait actively for a new creation – a new heaven and a new earth – to be brought forth from this broken and imperfect place we inhabit. In a world where hunger pains ache in the stomachs of millions, where the thirst for power outstrips our desire to provide clean water for the parched lips of entire nations, we long for Christ to appear and with finality heal the wounds of God’s whole creation.
On this first Sunday of Advent, we light a candle reflecting the disciples’ question, our question…
People: “Tell us, when will these things happen?” (Mark 13:4a)
Leader: We light this candle as a sign that we are preparing, even now, for all things to be made new in Christ’s final coming. We do not sit and wring our hands over what cannot be done. We wait actively by refraining from evil, doing good, and seeking God in worship and prayer.
People: We wait actively.
Leader: We light this candle to remind us of all that is yet to be fulfilled, of the frustrations and challenges that lie ahead, remembering what Jesus said:
People: “These are the beginnings of birth pains.” (Mark 13:8b)
All: Come, Lord Jesus. Come.
Amy Persons Parkes © 2015